In the gym, barbells and dumbbells are popular pieces of equipment for strength. On the other hand, treadmills and ellipticals are popular for cardio. But you don’t have to get in your cardio and strength sessions by sprinting back and forth between different sections of your gym. If you want to get stronger and more cardiovascularly fit at the same time, the prowler (or sled) can take your training to the next level of conditioning and power.
The prowler push boosts your overall athletic performance, not to mention daily function. You can use it on your higher intensity days or when you need more of an active recovery. Just about anyone can implement the prowler push into their workout routine because of its versatility and adjustability. Beginners and advanced athletes alike can benefit from pushing around a loaded implement like this.
Benefits of the Prowler Push
- Increased Muscle Hypertrophy
- Good for Active Recovery
- Improved Sprint Performance
- Improved Core Strength
- Functional Training
- Unilateral Lower Body Strength
- Body Fat Loss
The prowler push engages your quads, glutes, abdominals, erectors, and upper body to stay rigid and contracted for prolonged periods of time. This rigidity helps increase the time your muscles are under tension. Studies suggest that increasing the time under tension can help increase muscle hypertrophy more than conventional resistance training. (1) Since the prowler push helps to challenge your entire body, it’s a great way to build muscle all over.
When performed at lower intensities, prowler pushes and sled training can increase blood flow to active tissues for recovery purposes. The prowler push involves concentric muscle contraction and doesn’t induce eccentric strain on the muscles. Studies suggest that eccentric training can cause greater muscle damage delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS. (2) By training concentrically with a prowler, you limit muscle soreness while helping increase blood flow to damaged muscle tissues.
The prowler push helps increase your lower body’s force output and ground reaction forces during running, sprinting, and other athletic movements. This helps create faster, stronger strides.
You’re able to change the angle at which you move, which mimics the hip and knee drive found in sprint mechanics. Studies suggest that implementing sled training with any load can help produce greater sprint performance, compared to non-resisted sprint training. (3)
In order to maintain stability and keep the sled in a straight line, you have to recruit your core. Core strength boosts your sports and running performance, as well as your daily life. Having a strong core helps stabilize your spine, which is essential for exercises like the deadlift. Studies suggest that core strength is essential for balance, posture, and control in sports training, and when performing daily activities such as walking, sitting, and standing. (4)
Throughout most sports and much of daily life, the ability to contract your core and upper body, to carry, pull, and push heavy loads can come in handy. The prowler push is a functional exercise that challenges your entire body. This movement pattern translates to everyday activities. Studies suggest that functional training can have a greater overall effect on strength, endurance, and power compared to traditional training. (5)
Pushing the prowler means you’re keeping your upper body rigid while your legs move one at a time. This makes it similar to exercises like a single-leg squat or single-leg leg press, where you’re training both sides of your body equally.
View this post on Instagram
Bilateral exercises are beneficial, but if there are any weaknesses or imbalances in your body, they may be compensated by the stronger side. Training unilaterally may help improve muscle imbalances and help improve overall performance — not to mention reduce injury risk. That’s because the more symmetrical your strength is, the less likely you are to develop compensatory movement patterns that can hurt you in the long-run.
The prowler push is versatile and can be adjusted for novice or more advanced fitness levels. Either way, it’s a beneficial way to get your heart rate up. And, if one of your goals is reducing your body weight, it’s also helpful for burning calories and body fat. Studies suggest that performing a high intensity functional exercise like the prowler push can change overall body composition and help reduce body fat. (6) So if one of your goals happens to be losing body fat, prowler pushes may be able to help.
How to Do the Prowler Push
Pushing something heavy means you need to lock in solid form for the move to be effective and safe. Doing the prowler push properly is essential to help avoid injury and make the most out of this functional exercise.
- Load a prowler sled with or without weight plates, depending on the intensity you’re looking for. You can also use no weight if you’re a beginner or looking for a lower intensity workout.
- Position yourself behind the prowler with your arms bent and your shoulders close to the poles.
- Grab each bar with one hand. Angle your body forward about 45 degrees. Make sure your core is tight, and your spine is neutral.
- Make sure your heel is planted when you step and push the sled straight ahead. Keep your elbows bent to keep the pressure from the load in the posterior chain rather than your delts and elbow joint.
- Step with the other foot and continue to alternate.
Practice with light or no loads to start, and go heavier once you’ve got the technique down.
Prowler Push Variations
One of the best features of the prowler push is its versatility. There are plenty of exercises you can do with the prowler sled whether your goal is to improve strength, speed, or endurance.
The prowler drag is similar to the prowler push, but you’re pulling it behind you using suspension straps or ropes. They produce a lot of the same benefits and the drag also helps with speed work for runners or athletes that train for explosive movements.
The prowler drag is not an easy exercise. But you can customize it to your needs. You can drag it behind you for more of an upward motion, while pushing allows for a more downward motion. This lets you emphasize different training needs, depending on which lifts or muscles are lagging for you.
Lateral Prowler Push
Many exercises are done in the sagittal plane, meaning moving backward or forward. But moving through the frontal plane — side-to-side motions — like with the lateral prowler push helps build strength and balance. Along with that balance comes an increased resilience against injury.
Prowler Rope Pull
A great way to get an upper-body workout is with the prowler rope pull. Using this variation, you stay stationary and pull the prowler sled towards you.
Although you’re pulling with your arm and back muscles, your lower body is working to help you stay low and stable. This helps you move the weight safely and efficiently. Pulling with one arm at a time helps work each side of the upper body equally, making it a great unilateral exercise to incorporate.
Prowler TRX Power Row
Similar to a prowler pull, the prowler TRX power row combines a TRX row with a prowler pull. Like with other prowler sled exercises, it helps work the entire body. It helps improve strength and power in the upper and lower body.
The goal is to pull the prowler as far as you can with each row. To do this, use the power and strength in your upper body and hip extension.
The uncomplicated and easily adjustable nature of the prowler makes it a great tool for all kinds of athletes. This is true whether you’re looking to build strength, power, muscle, conditioning, or your recovery quality. Raise or lower the intensity by adjusting the weight or the speed, so you can use it for just about any workout day.
It’s important to incorporate pushing and pulling exercises into your routine for muscle balance and overall strength. The prowler allows you to do either. That’s because the prowler push adds more pushing volume and variety to your entire body. It may be simple to use, but when done properly, it can help you build a stronger and more powerful body.
- Tran, Quan, Docherty, David, Behm, David. The effects of varying time under tension and volume load on acute neuromuscular responses. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2006; 98(4).
- Hody, Stéphanie, Croisier, Jean-Louis, & Bury, Thierry. Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Risks and Benefits. Frontiers in Physiology. 2019; 10.
- Cahill, Micheal J., Oliver, Jon L., & Cronin, John B. Influence of resisted sled-push training on the sprint force-velocity profile of male high school athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Sports Science. 2020; 30(3).
- Hsu, Shih-Lin, Oda, Harumi, & Shirahata, Saya. Effects of core strength training on core stability. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2018; 30(8).
- Da Silva-Grigoletto, Marzo E., Mesquita, Marceli M A., & Aragao-Santos, Jose C. Functional Training Induces Greater Variety and Magnitude of Training Improvements than Traditional Resistance Training in Elderly Women. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. 2019; 18(4).
- Feito, Yuri, Hoffstetter, Wade, & Serafini, Paul. Changes in body composition, bone metabolism, strength, and skill-specific performance resulting from 16-weeks of HIFT. Plos One. 2018; 13(6).
Featured Image: UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock